It's Time to Take Vladimir Putin's Diplomatic Skills Seriously


Russia's President Vladimir Putin makes a statement on issues connected with chemical weapons in Syria at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, September 10, 2013. (Photo: REUTERS/Michael Klimentyev/RIA)

Vladimir Putin has suddenly emerged as the diplomat du jour. The Russian plan for Syria to turn over its chemical weapons has bought time for the Obama Administration but it's opened up another challenge: Putin is being intransigent and rejecting US and French demands for a binding United Nations resolution with "very severe consequences" for non-compliance. And that stance is exacerbating the feeling among American lawmakers and western leaders that they can't trust Putin.

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Svetlana Savranskaya directs the Russian Programs at the National Security Archives and she thinks Putin is worth listening to and has real leverage with Syria. "Russia's diplomatic initiative for Syria is a positive step," says Savranskaya. "It allows all three sides to walk out of the dead end they have gotten themselves into."

Savranskaya believes many in the West are stuck in the Cold War mentality of viewing Putin only through the lens of his KGB background. She says it's important to see that Russia's own domestic politics push Putin in an authoritarian direction. "The existing political forces in Russia are going through a significant surge of nationalism and the Communist Party is strong," Says Savranskaya. "I think if we put him in that context then we might see him more as a shrewd politician and not just a KGB product."